Years ago, I sent out some "catechesis emails" to interested friends and family. They, like me, never really learned much in Catholic religious education and CCD classes (I was catechized in the 1970s and '80s). What I wrote was pretty basic stuff, and I thought some of the Bubble readers might like the overview. Part one of this salvation history overview can be found here.
So, what happened to humanity after Adam and Eve’s fall from grace and banishment from the Garden of Eden?
Well, life got pretty rough (it always does when humans are separated from God). When sin entered the world, so did toil, suffering, disorder and death. Everything that was easy in the Garden was now difficult and required great effort. Adam now had to work the land, laboring and sweating, in order to bring forth food (whereas in the Garden, food was abundant and available). Eve would have to bear children in pain and suffering (whereas in the Garden, childbirth would have been painless and effortless).
The things that bring forth life (tending the fields; giving birth) became works of great suffering and sacrifice. It is significant that when Jesus Christ came later to clean up our mess, He gave us the gift of eternal life through His great suffering and perfect sacrifice.
Please keep that in mind: In our fallen world, the things that are truly life-giving require suffering and sacrifice. It doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? In our fallen state, we humans have a disordered inclination to seek pleasure and comfort above all else, and we are uneasy when we think of suffering and sacrifice. And yet, we are called to endure suffering patiently and offer ourselves sacrificially.
Yep, there's a reason Jesus calls His way the “narrow road” that is not often willingly traveled! But that narrow road leads to abundant and eternal life. It is our suffering and sacrifice (offered to God in union with Christ's suffering and sacrifice) that sanctifies us, and it is in our sanctification (i.e., holiness) that we attain the perfection of Heaven.
But, I digress!
Adam and Eve went about their lives outside the Garden, they were “fruitful and multiplied,” and they taught their children about God. But because of sin and its effects (concupiscence), human thoughts became confused, consciences dulled and hearts hardened. It wasn't long before the first human blood was spilled: Adam and Eve's son Cain murdered his brother Abel, out of envy. And things spiraled down from there.
Essentially, what happened back then still happens today: People get caught up in their lives and do not think of God, Who becomes less and less important. As His memory fades from their minds and hearts, sin increases (sin darkens the intellect and weakens the will, so this downward spiral happens quite easily). Some deny His existence completely, while others acknowledge Him but keep Him far enough away so that He doesn’t interfere with their lives. Others resent and defy God when life is difficult and full of pain. However it happens, God is rejected, and we put ourselves in His place.
He doesn’t abandon us, we abandon Him.
So, way back then, as the generations marched on, most folks eventually abandoned God. However, then – as now – there was a handful of people who remained faithful and obedient to the Lord. God worked closely with those faithful ones throughout the generations, planning an opportunity for all of mankind to be saved. (It's been said that God’s mercy is His most beautiful attribute, and I tend to agree!)
Within every soul -- even the souls who do not love God or who do not believe in Him -- God has left His “echo” or his “thumbprint.” Deep down, every soul knows of God, every soul is hurting because of separation from God, and every soul is trying to find its way back to God. God alone knows what each of these souls needs, and He alone can provide it. Like a loving Father, He patiently waits for His children to reach for Him.
He waits now, He waited then.
Back in the ancient centuries, those who still remembered the God of the Garden tried to work their way back to Him….
Part III here.